The first issue of The Texas Prince Hall Freemason is out and it is impressive. Grand Editor Brother Burrell D. Parmer deserves much credit for putting together a great mix of wonderful pictures and great stories.
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas used to have a publication of the printed variety as many other jurisdictions in Prince Hall and Mainstream Masonry still do today. The printed publication is more costly to produce and more difficult to distribute than an electronic publication and because of that fact Prince Hall Texas’s printed publication gradually faded away into oblivion.
But Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis was determined that his Grand Lodge publication be revived in some manner. After much discussion it was determined that the best vehicle to revive this needed communication tool would be an E-Publication attached to the Grand Lodge website. The days of a large number of Brothers not having E-Mail has gone by the boards and any Lodge in the state has the capabilities to print out a Texas Prince Hall Freemason for any Brother in need.
Unlike some Grand Lodge publications I have seen that are a shill for the Grand Lodge and/or mainly a distribution of “what’s happening in your Lodge,” The Texas Prince Hall Freemason has a wide variety of content, from Masonic happenings across the state like cornerstone laying, special days of celebration and charitable endeavors to philosophical, inspirational and educational stories. There is an article on Prince Hall Texas’s first Latino Worshipful Master; a book review, an article on what the Guild is doing and a Historical Corner. There are editorials on how to increase membership and grow a Lodge.
There are articles outside the jurisdiction – one on the new Prince Hall monument erected on the Cambridge, Massachusetts Common and another on the remembrance of Connecticut’s first recognition of Prince Hall written by a Connecticut Brother.
The publication is 43 pages long and it is chock full of pictures, photographs that were professionally taken. The article on Texas Celebrates Prince Hall Americanism Day is a collage of six pictures taken from various jurisdictions in the state and overseas. The next quarterly publication of the Texas Prince Hall Freemason could very well be 75 pages long without adding much to the cost of production.
The secret to success here is in the excellence of production and the low cost and ease of distribution of an E-Publication. There has been no sacrifice in quality by going to an E-Publication that has unlimited possibilities without being subject to budget restraints.
Besides the hard work of Parmer and his staff what makes the excellence of this publication is our Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis who had a vision of the past concerning the recreation of this publication and who has a vision for our future in his message that leads off this first E-Publication. A Grand Master who has vision is one who will bring dreams into reality. He is also a Grand Master who has most likely seen the film Field of Dreams and through his vision will make the phrase “If you build it they will come,” a reality also.
Reviewing the manner in which Mike McCabe was treated and his Lodge was treated, it is quite evident that U.S. Mainstream Masonry has decided to rule and govern itself using a model which is a cross between the U.S. Army and the Vatican.
The Pope, or General or Grand Master of New Jersey pulled the charter of Trimble Lodge for no apparent reason other than greed. But first it asked the Lodge to vote on its fate. When 95% of the Lodge voted to remain as they were, the Grand Master said, well you didn’t vote the way I wanted you to so I am over ruling your election and taking your charter. You are no longer a Lodge in this jurisdiction. Silly us, we thought that the process as laid out by the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey should be binding.
Then when another Pope of New Jersey Masonry goes after McCabe he does so on trumped up charges reminiscent of Derek Gordon’s fate in Arkansas and in one of the charges uses surrogates to file a fake, false charge reminiscent of Gate City Lodge No. 2’s fate in Georgia. All along the way the Grand Master violates the tenants of his Constitution and the spirit of due process. He does so by wanton disregard of his jurisdiction’s most sacred document. Now it no longer becomes the importance of the process but the importance of the leader.
UNCONSTITUTIONALLY CHANGING A CONSTITUTION
The Grand Lodge Oligarchy in New Jersey outlawed its Constitution. You can’t insert a clause in a Constitution that says the leader can ignore any and all statues that he wants to. By doing so you have dispensed with the necessity of having a Constitution. This seems to be the trend in modern Mainstream Masonry. The rule of law has been replaced with the cult of the leader.
But it wasn’t always this way. In fact that is far from the tradition of Masonry. For centuries a Grand Master’s power was delineated in the Constitution which spelled out exactly when and how he could interfere in the affairs of a local Lodge. Under the Constitution local Lodges as well as individual Brothers had rights too and spheres of influence that a Grand Lodge could not violate without permission. Just as in the civil separation of church and state we had separation of Grand Lodge and local Lodges. And Grand Masters adhered to the letter of the law.
But that has gone by the boards in today’s Masonry. And that is precisely the problem that has infected Mainstream Masonry today. Grand Lodges have become like civil governments, jealous of their power and taking extraordinary measures to keep, preserve and protect that power while constantly adding to it. In the process Grand Lodge’s have trampled on the civil rights of its members and overridden their own Constitutions which were written to limit their powers.
Instant Suspensions and Instant Expulsions without a Masonic trial by Grand Masters are not in the tradition of Masonic jurisprudence. Neither is pulling charters and closing down Lodges that are vibrant and healthy for purely political reasons. There has to be some recourse to the Brotherhood for relief from out of control Grand Masters who have eliminated all limits on their power. And that recourse has to be something beyond dumping the problem back on the individual members to correct. If a Grand Master can over ride and negate any vote taken by the Grand Lodge acting as a body then he is as entrenched in power as Castro is in Cuba.
Here are four suggestions. Pick one, or suggest another.
A Congress of elected Masons in every Grand Lodge who write and interpret Masonic law
Abolish the Grand Lodge system altogether
The sad fact is that that the Frank Haas story in West Virginia, the story of Halcyon Lodge in Ohio, the Gate City Lodge No.2 story in Georgia, the Derek Gordon story in Arkansas and the Mike McCabe story in New Jersey are all the same peas in a pod. And tomorrow there will be another story somewhere else, and another and another and another until American Masonry decides to reform and police itself deciding that it is an American institution not just a state body with a states rights attitude and a Confederate mindset.
Having looked at the past 100 years of the Boy Scouts, it is important to spend some time on their organization so as to put into perspective how it operates and perhaps take a lesson for how a member centric organization functions with a national leadership while still retaining its local focus. The value of having a national organization is easy to see when you look beyond the titles and examine the work being performed in service to the organization. Rather than platitudes and titles, an engine of progress and motion is working behind the scenes to grow, nurture, and build the overall brand, something that Freemasonry does not have in a way comparable to that of the BSA.
An initial aspect of interest with the Boy Scouts as a body is that the national organization structure removes the diversity of individual states from practicing Scouting in their own manner and sets a national standard by which the entire body adheres to. Further it delegates down from the top to the increasingly more local organizations the management and practice down to the Troop level through committees and charter councils. At the lowest rungs the troop becomes, like the lodge, the local corporate unit, still broken into patrols which function within the troop. This seems to have allowed for the troops to retain a diversity of its local community from which the members reside.
An interesting aspect of juxtapose is to look at the Scout Troop to a system, more familiar to readers, of the Masonic lodge. Troops are made up of members from the local community, staffed by their parents and guardians, and chartered by an organization (church, civic group, business, etc) to operate. The group meets in weekly meetings for the purpose of training, planning, rank progression, with a variety of activities taking place at any given time. The meeting has leadership that directs it (similar to a Worshipful Master) with junior officers (like the Wardens) who assist where and when necessary. The meetings have a distinct purpose however, and like a corporate business meeting, it breaks out into teams to accomplish its various tasks, something unlike a Masonic Lodge meeting.
To appreciate the local operation, we should look at how the Scouts operate from a national level that makes its way to the troops.
First Masonry, as most readers will know, is based on a lodge system with each local lodge reporting loosely to a regional management (or District Inspector) but directly through its charter reports to a state level governance, called the Grand Lodge. In North American Masonry, the reporting structure stops there as directives, edicts, publications, and announcements come from it. The Grand Lodge also functions as the state point of contact for marketing, brand protection, and broader national communication. In a direct line, the individual Mason reports to a lodge, and the lodge to a Grand Lodge. In this line of succession there is some blurred lines of responsibility as to public interaction and marketing go (if any exist at all), and practice is set by the Grand Lodge based loosely on its custom which varies in nuance from state to state in dress, recognition between bodies, landmarks of the institution, and custom. At a high level lodges have similar practice, but custom and dress has a great degree of variance from local lodges between states, because of a lack of standardization. Observational, this has created silo’s of Freemasonry rather than a unified national body as with the Boy Scouts. Perhaps in its founding this was an organizational hazard and part of its planned incorporation to cultivate a unified message and purpose.
Structurally, the Boy Scout’s are localized at every level so as to meet the needs of its constituency. Diagrammatically, the troop reports to a unit committee, which reports to the Chartered Organization which then reports to a District, and then a Local Council. The Local council in return reports up to an Area Committee, which then report to a Regional who in turn reports to a National Council.
By reporting level this looks like:
National Council, BSA
This level is the overall leadership in the Executive Board and sets the general direction of the of the work of the Scouts. This Board is entirely volunteer except for the National Commissioner, International Commissioner, and the Chief Scout Executive. The Council develops programs; sets and maintains quality standards in training, leadership selection, uniforming, registration records, literature development, and advancement requirements. It does not directly administer to the troops, packs, venturing crews, etc, rather it delegates downward.
Regional Council (Committee and Board)
The country is broken into Regions for better management and governed by a Regional Committee and Council. The Council exercises the authority and responsibility of the Regional Committee whenever the Regional Committee is not in session but both function to implement national BSA policy and programs. Additionally it plans events and activities for its specific region and to train members of the various standing committees. All members at this level are also volunteers.
The Regional Board conducts the affairs of Scouting in the region on a day to day basis in conformity with regional committee and board policy
Regions are further broken into areas where the Area council functions similarly o the Regional in setting, managing, and implementing local activities.
Local councils are usually not-for-profit private corporations registered within the State in which they are headquartered, they administer any program they wish in the BSA portfolio through an annually issued charter to administer the BSA programs in their area. To hold the charter the Council adheres to certain program, financial and accounting standards. Local councils are privately funded and are not financially linked to the National Council or local units. Funding comes from donations, corporate sponsors, and special events. The local council is led by volunteers, with administration performed by a staff of professional Scouters. The Council President is the top volunteer; the Scout Executive is the top professional. In many ways this appears as essentially a franchise from the national body.
Local Councils promote the Scouting programs, register units and personnel, provide facilities and leadership for year-round outdoor programs and summer camps, and insure the general principals of scouting are adhered to. Additionally they insure the integrity of the merit badge system, ensures badges-and insignia are protected, and provide training to the Local Units and community groups using the Scouting program. Most importantly the Local Council sets the standards in Scout policies (locally).
Local Councils report to Regional Councils on finances, scouting membership, numbers of scouts attending camps and on their review of charter renewal applications for the Troops and Packs.
The District is an optional add-on to mobilize resources in the growth and success of Scouting units in the area. Traditionally they are composed of volunteers, and provide training, and programs for Scouts.
This is the sponsoring body that owns and runs a particular Scout Troop granted as a franchise of sorts) to operate a Boy Scout unit. Typically the chartered organization has goals similar to the Scouting organization such as a school, church, civic organization, business, etc. The chartering organization provides a meeting place for the Scouts, selects a Scoutmaster, approves unit leadership and provides a representative to liaise with the Troop.
The Unit committee is three composed of three or more qualified adults selected by the chartered organization who’s responsibility is to deliver quality unit programs, manage unit administration, and utilizes programs to accomplish the Troops goals and development.
Individual Unit – Troop
The Unit is composed of the Scouts themselves, which are broken into patrols which have their own structure of operation including Scribes, Quartermasters, Librarians, Chaplin, Guides, Historians, Assistant Patrol Leaders, and instructors, as well as many others. This is the essential functioning component of the Scouts and the most fundamental expression of the Boy Scouts purpose.
At the Troop level, then, is the foundation of the Scouts life, like the Lodge for the Mason. The Troop is a fluid body of new and returning members which functions to facilitate the Scout experience. Meetings consist of training on the basis of First aid to the types of lashings to affix two or more poles together. A function of the Scout meeting is the individual progress of the Scouts. Unlike Masonry, the Boy Scouts have a variety of testable points by which the candidate progresses. These points, spread between merit badges, knot tying, projects, teaching, and memorization. These processes serve to bring the Scout into a tight relationship with the corporate body, progressing through a series of ranks demarcated with each subsequent achievement. It’s in these progressions that a highly valuable lesson is taught to the member , lessons retained for the rest of their life. For example the Scout learns the fundamentals of first aid, how to tie a knot to secure materials in place, conservation, leadership, and even how to plan a complex and multi thousand dollar project. All of this takes place weekly at the recurring troop meeting.
As you can see, the organization is deep in that there is a tremendous infrastructure to protect its purpose and product. One of the most notable elements in recent history is the close and careful cultivation of the Boy Scout Brand which is one of its strongest corporate properties and essentially the product itself which is licensed or franchised to the Chartering body.
This level of brand development/protection is outside the capacity of Masonry at present and likely the cause of its slip in public awareness (especially when contrasted in the work of the Shrine which has a highly cultivated presence and brand). The model of the Scouts organization is something that Masonry can take a lesson from in several ways. First to disassociate the idea of the Lodge as the focal point for the group activity which allows the attention instead to be focused on activities, projects, and community engagement rather than utility bills and infrastructure management. The importance of the body of work performed out shines the landed importance on the place in which the work takes place. This is not to suggest a franchising, but the experimentation of an un-landed lodge (like a traveling lodge) that can focus on its community involvement by literally being in the community.
Also, having a National Organization, unlike the Masonic Grand Lodge system, allows for a specific set of standardized processes that can be made universal so that each operating lodge has a basis of operation integrity especially when coupled with a leadership structure which allows the adoption of locally flavored practice and preferences with permutations built into the foundational rules local users. In essence, the infrastructure allows for the BSA Troops to operate without worry as to what they are in operation of, they have a National Standard of material and an activity chain of National command supporting and growing the organization. We can see this in the basic principal of the Boy Scout Handbook where essentially the codex of Scouting resides.
Responsibility still ultimately falls on the local body, but with an arsenal of tools, training, a strong stable brand, and a national level of marketing the work of the local can more specifically focus on the work of building Boy Scouts.
In conceiving the organization, its easy to say that it is a complex model of operation. Boy Scout Troops are thriving across the country (and world) and continue to offer programs for young people. A Wikipedia article on recent Boy Scout Controversies places numbers just over 2.7 million members (in all Scouting groups) as of 2009, with a similar downward trend that Freemasonry is experiencing (roughly a 22% average per decade loss).
Without a doubt there are many lessons to take away from the Boy Scouts, from their history, their operation, and their organization. Unlike most century old institutions, looking at what has taken shape in the last 100 years to coalesce into what it is today, an outsider can be encouraged to imagine what the Boy Scouts of America will become in its next century. Strong leadership from early visionaries and a strong organizational foundation has allowed for the progression of a clear vision of purpose to promote “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values”, all of which the Boy Scouts have cultivated. They are truly an American institution and an asset to the spirit of young people everywhere. Being Prepared is every bit the noble endeavor it seems and on so many levels the very basis of shaping young men for the ideal of civic engagement to become good men.
All in all, the Boy Scouts have had a stellar century and this centennial celebration is a milestone in American culture and a monumental achievement for American youth, to which the only thing to say is congratulations on a terrific organization. It is absolutely one that Freemasonry should take note from in both its operation and its outlook. The Scouts sprang up in the minds of those who saw the need for action in the face of a rapidly changing nation, foreshadowing the national call to instill values in children, and it still blazes a trail to educate, motivate, and activate the imagination and active civic expression in fast maturing boys. Despite recent controversies, the Boy Scouts is still a member run organization operating in a manner to uphold its principals which perhaps puts it at odds with the present day zeitgeist of multiple perspectives and ever shifting outlooks. But, just as it adapted to a changing world in 1910, so too have the Scouts emerged to embrace the 21st century at its 2010 centennial.
If you want to support your local Scouting body, I encourage you to visit the Boy Scouts of America web site. Or, with your donation, help support scouting through their fund raising which supports their camps, equipment, and uniforms.
Or, if you have a young man looking to improve himself, I recommend joining the Scouts today.
Awhile back the Mainstream Grand Master of Arkansas visited the Grand Session of Arizona. However, he refused to attend any of the ceremonies or meetings of the Grand Session because there were Black PHA Masons present in a tyled Lodge. He only attended the Grand Session dinner because it was not a tyled session.
Arkansas is Imploding
I passed on this story when it came out because I had just released the Derek Gordon story not long before and I didn’t want to just sit back and constantly nitpick by taking pot shots at Arkansas every other week. However further developments in the whole Arkansas approach to Freemasonry compels me to once again comment on the situation in that state. At the same time nobody seems to care or think it applicable to their Freemasonry. Consequently Arkansas Mainstream keeps on imploding while the rest of us in Freemasonry have no comment nor take any action. So once again The Beehive will report what is happening in hopes that someday, someone will think it important enough to do something.
The Arizona story was published by that fine Masonic blogger “The Burning Taper” in his piece “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” and here is what he had to say on the subject.
It seems many rank-and-file Masons, in many locales, are becoming more and more fed up with the actions of Grand Lodge leaders.
This short article was sent to The Burning Taper recently. The author wishes to remain anonymous, for fear of retribution for reporting events and expressing his opinion.
Arizona Grand Lodge Annual Communication began with the Royal Banquet on Wednesday evening, June 2, 2010 prior to the official opening of proceedings on Thursday morning.
The Head Table consisted of Arizona Grand Lodge officers and their wives. Seated near them were the visiting dignitaries representing various Masonic grand lodge jurisdictions. There were 13 listed on the list handed out to all attending members. Most were “line” officers representing their State or jurisdiction with two currently sitting grand masters.
The two grand masters attending the Banquet were Most Worshipful Martin E. Warren, Grand Master of Masons from the Grand Lodge, F&AM of Arkansas, and Most Worshipful Lewis R. Brent, Grand Master of Masons from the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arizona. They were not seated at the same table.
When the Grand Lodge opened in Due Form in the 3rd Degree on Thursday morning the MW Lewis R. Brent from Prince Hall was present, but the MW Martin E. Warren was conspicuously absent. He was not seen in any of the subsequent tiled lodge meetings all day Friday or on Saturday.
It is the custom of the Grand Lodge that, when a pedestal officer (Grand Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden) leave their stations during the proceedings that they place the Jewel of their office on one of the brothers in the room.
Several times during the proceedings on both days, the Senior Grand Warden Brook Cunningbrook chose a highly decorated Phoenix policeman, who is a member of one of the Arizona F&AM lodges and had been shot in the line of duty, to sit high on the chair located on a pedestal in the West to replace him temporarily. He is black.
There were two other black members of Arizona F&AM lodges present and the Senior Grand Warden had them also replace him in the West. It is quite an honor to do this.
In this case, in my opinion anyway, it was kind of an “in your face” type of gesture to some of the members of the Arizona jurisdiction who have moved to Arizona from one of the 10 states that do not recognize Prince Hall and have complained about having to sit in a lodge with a black man. Whether it was directed towards the Grand Master of Arkansas, I can only speculate.
What’s interesting about this is that the Grand Master of Arkansas spent the money to fly to Arizona only to have dinner. Since it is customary for Grand Lodges to pay for the travel expenses of their grand masters, I wonder if the brethren of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas got their monies worth. Since he did not attend any of the business meetings by sitting in a tiled lodge with a black man but only attended the social functions, it seems to me that he spent a lot of money just for a free dinner and drinks, even if the cost came out of his own pocket.
This obviously was an example of the kind of “Imperial Leadership” prevalent in many jurisdictions and is not restricted to Arkansas alone.
More recently another source, who will remain nameless to protect him from expulsion, alleges that Van Buren Lodge of Mainstream Arkansas planned a visit to view The Oklahoma Native American Indian Degree Team perform in Heavener, Oklahoma. When the Worshipful Master of Van Buren Lodge found out that Black Masons would be present he canceled the trip. Furthermore it is alleged that Arkansas Mainstream Masons present at this decision repeated an Arkansas Grand Lodge directive that prohibits any Masons from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas attending any Masonic functions where Black Masons are present.
This source also contends that the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Arkansas is lying to its membership. He points out that the Grand Lodge Grand Session Minutes of 2010 show lawsuits being won by the GL when if you look for those lawsuits using legal aides, you can see that ARGL lost. Its reminiscent to me of of Orwell’s 1984.
This continuous bloodletting by Mainstream Arkansas has led to the spawning of a support group for suspended and expelled Arkansas Masons. Its name is C.A.U.S.E.
Concerned About Unlawful Suspensions Expulsions
This group meets in secret as any current members of the Grand Lodge would be expelled. It also is a service only available to unjustly suspended and expelled Arkansas Masons and specifically excludes any so dropped for moral turpitude.
Its purposes and objectives are:
To get men out of Masonry thinking about Masonry again
C.A.U.S.E. is open to suspended & expelled Arkansas Masons as well as current members who wish to aid such men. While its membership and place and time of meetings cannot be shared with non members, the group will soon have a website.
This group has a start up membership of about 50 men. Currently C.A.U.S.E. leaders are helping the membership with trying to become members in other jurisdictions, lawsuits against Grand Lodge and esoteric discussions and speakers. It must be remembered in the case of civil action it has been alleged that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has pulled the charter from some wealthy Lodges and closed them down in order to add that wealth to the Grand Lodge coffers.
Remember that when a Mason is unjustly expelled in one jurisdiction the wrong cannot be corrected in another jurisdiction (although C.A.U.S.E. is trying). All Masonic jurisdictions will mutually support one another in their suspensions or expulsions – no matter the reason. Frank Haas has been the only Mason in modern times to crash this barrier and that was just recently.
If you look at how many men are in C.A.U.S.E., which is only weeks old, and then add in former Masons in the same position from other states, you have a rather large group of disaffected Masons nationwide. These are for the most part good, honest men who have been wronged, and who sometimes seem overly angry and bitter. They are ripe for being picked up by another Obedience, many who are classified as irregular and clandestine by Mainstream Masonry.
These are men who certain Masonic societies and forums will drop from their membership rolls once they have been suspended or expelled. To be wronged and then to be shunted, ostracized and damned is something that only fuels the fire of bitterness and hatred.
Yet those in power who do wrong are never chastised by their peers. They are never held accountable for their actions. There is no recourse to correct a run away, rogue Grand Lodge.
The righteous minded, ass kissing, bean counters left in Mainstream Masonry will pontificate that if there are problems in a Grand Lodge then it is only the business of that Grand Lodge and nobody else’s and all that is needed to correct matters is for the Brethren as a whole to vote to change things.
They haven’t met the Arkansas Grand Master who is alleged to have forcibly removed and expelled an 80 year old member from Grand Lodge Session who made a motion that displeased him who is the same Grand Master who is accused of having committing an immoral act that sacks every brother who attempts to bring him up on charges by expelling them without trial.
Where were all these holier than thou Masons when the Grand Master of Arkansas banned Masonic E-Mail? Where were they when Past Grand Master Frank Haas was snookered into coming to a meeting so that the Grand Master could embarrass him by expelling him in front of his father and friends without prior notice?
The other mantra used by those on the inside is, wait awhile, when all the old guys die off, things will change. In the meantime – don’t rock the boat. Very bad advice, indeed. There is no reforming Grand Lodges which function as bastions of the KKK who remake themselves anew with each new generation. When any thought, word or deed, and attempt at making things right is met with instant expulsion without a trial then you have a rogue Grand Lodge out of control that is governing its membership as the North Korean government governs its citizens. The only thing that is going to stop a Grand Lodge like this is action from the outside.
C.A.U.S.E. is not standing around and waiting for somebody else to do something. It is going ahead to first take care of the hearts and souls of those men who have been so unjustly wronged, and then to mitigate some of the damage being done by a Grand Lodge who only thinks of itself and amassing more and more power.
Perhaps this movement will catch on in West Virginia and elsewhere.
An updated version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen
Once upon a time there was a Worshipful Master who was so fond of his Lodge that he spent most of his time rehearsing degrees and attending meetings. There was plenty of fun going on in the Lodge where the Master lived. Bills and minutes were read time and again, and the Brethren thrived on hot pasta dishes.
Visitors occasionally visited the Lodge. One day there came two representatives from Grand Lodge. They said they wanted to help the Lodge, but first the Master would have to hold fundraisers for the Grand Master’s charity and support his agenda. The Master found the GL representatives hypnotic, especially when they promised to increase membership, offset the Lodge’s growing financial burdens, and simplify the operation of the Lodge. Not only were their promises unusually attractive, but their programs had the peculiarity of being invisible to anyone who was not fit for his post or who was hopelessly stupid.
“I say! These must be wonderful ideas,” the Master thought. “If they are true, I would have the best Lodge in the jurisdiction. Yes, I must implement these programs all at once.” And he set the Craft to work under the guidance of the GL representatives.
And so it came to pass that the programs were implemented immediately. Spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, and fish fries became the norm. The Lodge dug into their pockets and produced handsome sums of money for the Grand Master’s charity. Lodge delegates attended Grand Lodge functions and followed the party line unquestioningly.
“Well, now, I wonder how everything is going?” the Worshipful Master said to himself. But there was one point that made him feel rather anxious, namely, that a man who was stupid or quite unfit for his post would never be able to see the benefits that had been produced. Not that he, the Master, need have any fears for himself – he was quite confident about that – but all the same, it might be better to send someone else first, to find out how things were going.
“I’ll send my honest old Secretary to check on the results as promised by the Grand Lodge representatives,” the Master thought. “He’s the best one to see what is going on, for he has plenty of sense and experience, and nobody fills his post better than he does.” So off went the honest old Secretary to a meeting with the Grand Lodge representatives who assured him that everything was going well. “Lord, bless my soul!” thought the Secretary, with eyes staring out of his head.
“Why, I can’t see any improvements in the Lodge.” But he was careful not to say so.
The two Grand Lodge representatives begged him to take a closer look – wasn’t the Lodge running just fine? Although the poor old Secretary opened his eyes wider and wider, he couldn’t see a thing, for there wasn’t a thing to see. “Good Lord!” he thought, “Is it possible that I’m stupid? I never suspected that, and not a soul must hear of it.”“Well, what do you think of it?” one of the representatives asked.
“Oh, it’s excellent! Things couldn’t be better!” the old Secretary said, looking through his spectacles. “I shall certainly tell the Worshipful Master how pleased I am with it.”
By and by, the Worshipful Master sent another honest Brother to see how the Lodge was running. The representatives accompanied him on his journey. As they traveled throughout the Lodge, the representatives made sure that the Brother saw only what they wanted him to see. He saw the Craft working on obscure projects, money being collected for the Grand Master’s Charity, and attendance at Grand Lodge workshops. “But our membership is still in decline, apathy among the Brethren is getting worse, and our financial situation is becoming dangerous,” the Brother thought to himself. And then he praised the programs, which he knew were compounding problems for the Lodge. “Yes, it’s quite sophisticated,” he said to the Worshipful Master when he got back.
The splendid programs became the talk of the district. And now the Worshipful Master himself said that he would check into the new programs himself. Quite a throng of select people, including the two honest old Brothers, went with him to where the Grand Lodge representatives were overseeing the programs.
“Look, isn’t it magnificent!” the two honest Brothers said. “What’s this?” the Worshipful Master thought. “I don’t understand a thing – this is appalling! Am I stupid? Am I not fit to be Master? This is the most terrible thing that could happen to me…”
“Oh, it’s quite wonderful,” he said to them. “It has our most gracious approval.” And he gave a satisfied nod. All the courtiers who had come with him looked and looked, but they made no more of it than the rest. Still, they all said just what the Worshipful Master said, and they advised him to discuss the programs for the first time at the next Lodge communications that was to take place shortly.
On the eve of the meeting, the Grand Lodge representatives sat up all night preparing a report for the Worshipful Master to read on the results of the programs.
Then the Worshipful Master went to the communications with the representatives and explained the programs to the Craft. Not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or to seem stupid, they all praised the Worshipful Master for the programs. “Marvelous! Sensational!” they all said. Never had the Worshipful Master’s programs been such a success.
“But you still haven’t solved your problems!” a young Entered Apprentice said. “Our membership is in decline, Brothers are staying away from the Lodge, and our finances are diminishing rapidly. At this rate, we’ll have to close our doors soon.”
“Goodness gracious, do you hear what he is saying?” the Craft whispered from one to the other. Then they all shouted, “But you still haven’t solved our problems!” And the Worshipful Master felt most uncomfortable, for it seemed to him that the Craft was right. But somehow he thought to himself, “I must go through with it now. I have too much invested in it already.” And so he drew himself up still more proudly, while the Grand Lodge representatives chased after him with him with more new ideas, even in spite of the obvious.
Keep the Faith.
Freemasonry From the Edge
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS firstname.lastname@example.org
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry” Originally published in 2008.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
I can’t help but make some comment about the latest in the line of SNAFU‘s, this time taking place in Arkansas. I don’t want to make any particular comment on what’s going, its my hope that all involved are true and acting above board and that the situation will resolve it self int he best way possible for the fraternity. But for now, a SNAFU is what it is indeed.
With this situation in Arkansas, and those of the past including West Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, and across orders with the Jesters, it begs the question what is our responsibility as a member of the order?
The easy answer is to say the things to which we take the obligations over, and further, the things that we sign on and linked to our states Masonic constitution. But that covers the physical or tangible things to do or not to do. What about the less obvious? And, from the other side of the fence, how do our own actions carry out the principals that we espouse. Really, there are four, Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice. Maybe your jurisdiction has others, maybe none of these, but by and large, these 4 tenets are the foundation of our being.
Masons are Temperate: In their consumption, in their excesses, in their sensibilities. Masons are not excessive, not marked or driven by passion.
Masons are Prudent: They make sound and carefully weighed decisions, their mind is on the greater good over the individual end. Masons are CAREFUL of their management.
Masons have Fortitude: Where others will crumble or compromise their morals, Freemasons have the Moral Fortitude to stand upright in the light, rather than hide in its shadow. Still human, Masons try harder to just and upright. Masons have the ability to face adversity with cool connectedness and courage.
Masons believe in Justice: Not in the strict sense of an eye for an eye, but rather the dispensation of the moral law, the divine mercy that even the Great Architect of the Universe gives to all of us in our weakest failings. Masons have a rightness and rectitude in all things, and an integrity in our dealings.
So, in the wake of these minor incursions in these remote places of American Masonry (not some far away place, but your fraternity in the next state over, your neighbors, your brothers), is this YOUR Masonry? Are you a Mason to practice the Royal Art whilst those who claim governance (see leadership) re-write what the moral value is to fit their actions?
Is that what the fraternity has de-evolved into? Would we better off without a centralized governance, where lodges govern and maintain their own members, where they interact with the community spreading the word of Masonry? Is it because of a lack of professional Masons (see paid), except at the Grand Lodge level, that like a Robber Baron Mob Boss, the future of the fraternity is being ground into dust for the gain of a few fancy jewels, a title or two, and a pay check.
Would we be better of incorporating the whole thing and making every member a single share holder responsible for a part of the whole?
Or, maybe Masonry just isn’t important to its members anymore with thinking that because its not happening in your own back yard, it has no overall effect to your membership. Is the system safe from a philosophical chain reaction with each instance triggering an invisible event somewhere else down the line?
This isn’t an indictment to the system of Grand Lodges, or those who staff them per-se, but a question as to what value they bring to the system overall. Is it a necessary layer of governance to a system that is otherwise set up to do it itself at the lodge level?
Could it be done without the leadership of a Grand Lodge, or does a Grand Lodge make YOUR individual Masonry more valuable? Somehow this period of SNAFU’s has got to come to a head, the question is what are you doing to help point it where you want it to go?
Masons have been meeting upon the level and parting on the square well before the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 (the first “Grand Lodge”). The invention of the Grand Lodge system was inevitable as it afforded Masons a means to administer Freemasonry on a consistent basis to suit local customs and cultural requirements. Establishing Grand jurisdictions to conform with political boundaries makes sense in that it allows Masons to legally operate under the particular laws of the state they are living.
This brings up an important point, the Grand Lodge system was originally designed to serve administrative purposes only. In other words, it is a servant of the Craft, not the other way around. It has long been understood that the authority over the activities of a local particular Lodge (aka Blue or Craft Lodge) primarily resides in the officers and members of the particular Lodge itself, not the Grand Lodge. However, over the years, we have seen a transition whereby the authority of the Grand Lodge supersedes the particular Lodge, thereby they serve the Grand Lodge and not the reverse.
Let me give you an example, I recently returned from our Grand Communications which, as most of you know, is intended to elect new Grand Lodge officers and vote on legislation. This particular Grand Communications annoyed the Craft greatly. I heard it described by delegates as the worst communications in recent memory, a model of inefficiency, a farce, the “Grand Master’s Coronation” and the “Grand Waste of Time” (and these are the kinder adjectives without the expletives). Why the disgruntlement? Because delegates felt their time and expense were taken for granted by the Grand Lodge. Had the Grand Master wanted to conduct the true business of the Grand Lodge in one day, he could have easily done so if he wanted. He didn’t. Instead, the Craft suffered through endless introductions, was bored to death by committee reports as pre-printed and included in the delegate’s packet of materials, and put to sleep by several unrelated speeches intended to pad time. To add insult to injury, little was accomplished in terms of legislation and the status quo was safely guarded again for another year. In other words, no progress was made. The Craft was so incensed by the Communications, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a sharp decline in attendance next year.
Regardless of the outcome, what disturbed me the most was the total lack of consideration for the Craft, only for the Grand Lodge officers. Brothers sacrificed a national holiday and a work day to attend a meeting that squandered their time. It wasn’t the Craft that was glorified, it was the Grand Line. My response to this was, “Haven’t we got this backwards?” It seems to me that instead of having humble servants of the Craft, we have created a Royal Family that answers to nobody.
The true power of Freemasonry belongs to the particular Lodge, not the Grand Lodge which should be nothing more than an administrative function. When it oversteps its authority and usurps the authority of the particular Lodge unnecessarily, than we have an unsavory situation emerging.
For those who believe in the tyrannical power of the Grand Lodge, I have two words of advice: Remember Runnymede.
Keep the Faith.
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS email@example.com Palm Harbor, Florida, USA “A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry” Originally published in 2008
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Weight and volume are very important. Two evenly measured weights on a opposite pans of a scale and you have a perfect balance, so long as your equipment is calibrated correctly. Add more weight to one pan and incrementally the scale will move towards which ever side the heavier burden is applied.
Extrapolate this idea into a larger arena where the medium that surrounds the moving weight is fluid, and with the Newtonian force of gravity, the material closest to, and bonded tightest to the weight will move with it, in effect causing an avalanche of sorts, or at least a heightened shift of position.
Perhaps you could say its an Alchemy of sorts, the transmutation from one thing into another, from one state to another. Neutral buoyancy to weight displacement. From Lead to Gold, or perhaps in this instance, from Gold to Lead.
Its quite a paradigm shift in the way things have been to the way things are to be. What I mean by that is apparently, without much fanfare, the Grand Lodge isn’t just rolling out a few changes for 2010, they are rolling out a battalion of them, for what seems to be for the purpose of improving Pennsylvania Freemasonry and the lives of its members. All said, in their introduction site, the changes are (by category):
Membership Recruitment Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join
Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010 (at 13 locations and with YR, SR, and Shrine)
All-Star Teams Will Confer District-wide Degrees
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day
Senior Recruitment Program
Lodges Awarded for Membership Growth and Retention
Membership “Call ‘Em All” Will Continue as “Call to the Craft”
Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit
Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically
Masonic Ritual Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals That Will Be Monitored Closely And Never Used in Open Lodge
Certified Brethren Will Receive a Proficiency Award Pin
Opening and Closing of Meetings May Be Shortened
Grand Lodge Governance District Deputy Grand Masters May Now Serve 10 Years
Some Masonic Districts Will Be Eliminated and Realigned
A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010
A New Due Process for Suspensions and Expulsions
The Legal Structure of Grand Lodge Will Be Assessed
New Software Will Simplify the Lodge Audit Process
Committee on Masonic Homes Meeting Change
The Dress Code for Masonic Meetings Is Relaxed
On Image and Visibility Open Installations of All Symbolic Lodge Officers
Electronic Guide Will Provide Tours of the Masonic Temple
Masonic Villages Adopt-A-Resident Program
Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service
Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness
Members Will Support Our Military Through “HELP FOR OUR HEROES”
Lodges Will Raise Funds to Support Our Masonic Villages
Masonic Youth Initiatives Will Be Supported By Lodges
On the page from the PA GL, they provide a brief explanation of what each change represents, and the hole that it seeks to fill, and while I am having a hard time understanding (agreeing?) with some of them, I have to say that the approach is an inventive and bold addition of weight to a scale that has long been un-moved by any form of change.
But, this change isn’t without its detractors, and a website has already been published to argue the counter point to the Grand Masters plan, billed as Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration. While I respect the civil dissent, I have to say that the call to arms may be premature given the nature of the changes the Grand Lodge is trying to implement.
On the 21 Century Renaissance site, it is easy to see the large one day class as BIG CONCERN to an otherwise interesting program and a potential affront to what has traditionally been Masonry the way its “always” been, which is clearly not the case. Not that one day classes have ever been the norm, the process of Masonry today is an evolved process that had a beginning that came from something else. It evolved, and this one day mass raising is another step in that evolution for better or worse. And, I’ll be open here, I have my own misgivings as to the intention of the one day class process, but taken in parcel with the other items, it becomes an easier bitter pill to swallow.
Some of what I do like in the program:
Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate:
This is a good way to break a singular majority in a solitary vote. Harmony in the lodge still needs to be met, but giving live or die power to one brother may be to much power in one place.
Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit:
This is a fantastic change that really brings things into he 21st Century.
Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically:
Another great system/operations update.
A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010:
This is a great idea and something FmI and Time Bryce have advocated to see for some time. Perhaps this will lead up to something National.
Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service:
This is a Great program, and my guess is that it will be another hard pill to get down. Not that there isn’t a level of charity within the membership, but to be told to do is it quite different than doing it out of will and love. an interesting idea, however, is the opportunity it gives to lodges to explore what that charity looks like, from donating lodge rooms to Boy Scout Troops, hosting voter polling locations, or any other creative measure to give back to the communities from which the membership comes from.
Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness:
This one escapes me, but I like the idea of it. It has a definite Pay It Forward appeal to it.
Personally, I have some concerns for these items, but I’m sure they are being implemented with the utmost caution.
Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join.
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010.
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day.
Senior Recruitment Program.
All of these are cause for some alarm, but as I mentioned, to enter into the 21st Century Renaissance, we enter into a period of change, just as Europe did in the post Medieval Renaissance.
Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals:
This one concerns me too, in that it would be the first state (to my knowledge) to openly WRITE what had here-to-fore only been given in written cipher. Despite the warnings and admonitions, the content will be copied and distributed no matter the level of governance and audit processes. And if not lost in the original content, photocopiers and scanners are very easy to make use of these days (though I do have some security ideas for how to safeguard the material).
All in all, I say lets see what these changes have in store for 2010. The concerns being what they are, the changes do seem to have the over arching growth and good will of the fraternity in mind.
At first blush, the 21st Century Renaissance seems to be mind blowingly radical, but really, the alchemy is in putting into play the ideas of best practice to bring its large membership in the modern age. Hopefully the ambitious shift of their weight shift will be a good one and something others will adapt too and continue the Renaissance of the 21st Mason.
Grand Lodge of Colorado Masonic membership:
12,645 – 2007
11,421 – 2008
gain/loss – -1,224
Data from MSANA
State population: 4,939,456 as of 2008 (estimated)
Mission Statement: The mission of Freemasonry in Colorado is to teach and perpetuate a fraternal way of life. That promotes brotherhood and self-improvement. Through education, moral standards, charitable giving and community involvement.
Late in the year 1858 a number of gold-seekers had gathered at the junction of Cherry Creek and the Platte River, on land which was then a part of the Territory of Kansas, but which now is within the State of Colorado. This settlement was known as Auraria, and by the first of November a number of cabins had been erected there.
On the evening of November 3, 1858, seven Masons, including William M. Slaughter, held an informal meeting in one of those cabins; and throughout the following winter these brethren and others continued to meet from time to time, having in mind the formation of a new Masonic Lodge at Auraria, provided the proper authorization could be obtained from some Grand Lodge… read more.
Some of what I found on my excursion there:
The Grand Lodge of Colorado is a minimalist website with a lot lot of punch. The site is has everything that one would want in a Grand Lodge site, including events listed on the front page, information of how to contact and find them, and an address (message) from the Grand Master. It has a very clear look and feel for what Colorado is known for, and lays out all of its informational content right on the front page.
The Grand Lodge of Colorado site is very rich in informational content. In that mix it has a clear history of Freemasonry in the state, what Freemasonry means both in general and in the state. And, it offers a wealth of pdf e-books for the membership and visitors to read on the fraternity and its multitide of meanings. This feature really impressed me in that it included some texts that are not commonly featured on most sites, including: An Exposition of the Mysteries or Religious Dogmas and Customs of Egyptians, Pythagoreans and Druids, Illustrations of Masonry, William Preston, George Oliver editor, 1867, Legenda, (Kadosh and Heirodom), Albert Pike, and many others. If added together, it would represent many thousands of pages of knowledge made available from a Grand Lodge site.
The site does not go for the immediate conversion of interested parties to membership, rather seeking to inform prospective members of what the requirements are and providing information on what membership represents. All of this can be found under their membership button on the top navigation.
The links section also has a diversity of sites, including The Sanctum Sanctorum, the Guild of Masonic Webmasters, Freemasonsonline.com, International Club for Templar Studies, and Paul M. Bessel’s Masonic Pages. This seems to be a growing list, and I’m sure as time progresses more will be added.
Other interesting components of the site are Grand Lodge specific, including information on their educational grants, their Honor Lodge award, and the Traveling Gavel, which is an interesting activity for lodges to promote visitation. The site also has an extensive listing of lodges in the state, which list websites to the lodges. Unfortunately, not all of the websites worked, some not existing at all. Of those that did function, the visitor was further greeted by a local lodge site. I do recommend that if traveling to the Grand Lodge site to stop in and look at the lodge links and virtually visit the various lodges.
Also, hidden on the community pages are press mentions that the Grand lodge has received and programs that it sponsors for community awareness including a Child ID program, a Band Camp Sponsorship, and Teacher of the Year program. Each of these are very noble pursuits and important in and of themselves.
Look and Feel:
As mentioned, the site is a minimalist construction. The two column site, with navigation across the top and on the right, really hits the mark for everything that a Grand Lodge site needs to communicate its information. The events on the front page immediately catch the eye, as does the striking image of the Grand Master with his message below. Each of the pages convey this symmetry and keep the delicate balance of message consistency. I did notice several instances (outside of their on-line library) that pdf’s and .docs were employed which can be challenging for some users (especially for those who do not have the know how to open them) and it also breaks the ability to key in specific search seo by binding up the text in the document making its content essentially invisible to the various search engines.
The site visually has a good balance between negative (white) space and its use of logos and images. It maximizes the use of clean typography for its linkage and transitions, making it easy to use, clear, and articulate in where the visitor is going. It does lose some of its secondary navigation when you dig deep into its pages, but the visitor can quickly use the top nav to get back to its main pages.
Further, the site employs a visual that is specific and unmistakable to the state and its presence in the snow capped Rockey mountains. Not included to be overt, the image of the mountains paint an interesting visual for the site as a whole.
The Grand Lodge of Colorado site is really a very clean and elegant site. It is packed with information and content (the pdf library itself a gold mine worth the visit) but in a very easy to use package. Its up-to-date calendar and listing of lodges is an excellent way to connect members to lodges and those interested to something local. It is disappointing to see lodges listed with websites only to find no site present, and this is something I hope gets resolved to broaden the reach in the state. Overall, I can definitely see the site expanding and adding even more information, and I think the layout is fitting to grow with the content.
One suggestion, as with many state Grand Lodge sites, is the addition of an RSS/XML feed so visitors can stay abreast of changes or updates with a subscription. Or, in lieu of a feed, a newsletter sign up to send information out to those of interest to receive one, as it represent a terrific means to deliver up to date information on what’s going on.